Programme Paper

Associate Fellow, Africa Programme
Vincent Darracq
  • France wields a level of influence in sub-Saharan Africa that it cannot command anywhere else in the world. In crisis situations, it is still seen as a key source of diplomatic, military or even financial pressure on or support for the countries in the region.
  • Africa accounts for 3% of France's exports and remains an important supplier of oil and metals – uranium from Niger is particularly strategic for energy security as about one-quarter of France's electricity production depends on it.
  • The value of French merchandise exports and imports to Africa has significantly increased since 1960 but France's market share there has consistently declined: from 7.73% of exports and 9.08% of imports in 1960 to 2.82% and 2.05% respectively in 2011. There are some bright spots, however: sub-Saharan Africa is an important market for French logistics, service, telecoms and infrastructure companies. 
  • President François Hollande's early Africa strategy has amounted to rather more than the military intervention in Mali. He has attempted to refashion France's wider political approach towards the continent and make a distinct break from the message and policy priorities of the Sarkozy era.
  • President Nicolas Sarkozy was self-confident and direct, but Hollande has shown a subtler ear for the tone of African diplomacy and how this can be used to productive effect. The trouble taken by Hollande to seek African opinion before going ahead with military intervention contrasted with past practice. 
  • French authorities have tried to establish dialogues on Africa with emerging powers – especially China – as well as aid and commercial partnerships with African countries. This policy had some success under Sarkozy and continues under Hollande.
  • Hollande sent a strong message of general principle in 2012 that countries with democratic governance will benefit from stronger support. However, in practice he has adopted a much more flexible and nuanced approach in dealings with individual regimes.